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FRACKING JUDGES: Scotland’s top judge promotes shale gas extraction, big oil and renewable energy as profit incentive for courts on same day Scottish Government announce ban on fracking

Courts to serve fracking & energy interests – top judge. SCOTLAND’S top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has spoken of his hopes that fracking for shale gas will increase business in the courts. The top judge also wants to turn Scotland’s legal system into a mediation haven for big business, big oil, shale gas barons & bankers, according to a speech he gave on the theme of “Digital Justice” last week.

The move is hoped to draw in millions for lawyers and judges – without the need to declare any interests.

During the fourteen page speech – Gill (72) also urged the legal sector to better exploit Scotland’s “natural resources” and renewable energy for their own profit.

Speaking on the issue of fracking, Gill (72) said: “Our resources of energy may be increased by the retrieval of shale gas, if that should be allowed. It seems to me therefore that the opportunity that our natural resources present should be served by the court system.”

However, Gill’s own views on the nation’s energy policy and how the legal sector should exploit it for their own ends was delivered the very same day the Scottish Government grudgingly announced a ban on new shale gas fracking schemes.

Making a statement announcing the ban on fracking after it emerged Energy Minister Fergus Ewing had criticised MSP Joan McAlpine for assisting constituents against plans by the Duke of Buccleuch to mine coalbed methane at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway, Mr Ewing told the Parliament: “I want to ensure that the voices of the communities likely to be most affected are heard, and are heard in a more formal and structured way.I am therefore announcing today that in addition to the technical work I’ve referred to on planning, environmental regulation and upon assessing the impact on public health, Scottish ministers will also launch a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction.”

In spite of the Minister’s promises of a full public consultation, it has been reported there are many in Canonbie who are “too afraid to speak out” against fracking – and now, with the courts and judiciary seemingly keen to exploit fracking and other runs on natural resources “to follow” as a profit model – it can surely only be a matter of time before wealthy landowners turn to their friends and investors in the courts to ensure shale gas plans go ahead – no matter the views of local communities and residents.

Speech by Lord Gill on Digital Justice, Fracking & Big Oil. During the speech, Lord Gill also chastised his own judicial colleagues & lawyers for missing out on exploitation of Scotland’s oil boom.

Lord Gill said: “In the 1960s and 1970s the economy of Scotland was transformed by the discovery of North Sea oil. The judges and lawyers of that time were not alert to the opportunity that Scotland could be an international forum for resolving disputes in the oil and gas industry. We paid a price for our complacency when the international oil and gas industry passed us by.”

Gill continued: “Half a century on we should look at Scotland’s economic opportunities and see how the courts can best serve them. In recent years a commitment to renewable energy has brought wind power to the fore as an energy source. Other forms of renewable energy may follow.”

The top judge also claimed Scotland can be made an international centre for litigation and mediation.

Gill said “Our legal system should be a driver for economic progress in Scotland. Our courts and our judges can and should contribute to the prosperity of our country. We can do that if, by the excellence of our judges, and our legal profession and the efficiency of our courts, we make Scotland a forum of litigation that not only retains litigations that at present go elsewhere but also becomes a forum of choice for litigations from abroad..”

However, Gill’s policy of promoting the murky, expensive and disreputable Edinburgh legal world as a centre of international litigation and mediation may well be destined to hit the buffers.

Previous attempts by the Scottish Government and now former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to bring make Scotland a more attractive place for international litigation and mediation have come to nothing, even after large amounts of public money have been thrown at the idea and public money lavished by Scottish Ministers on enterprises such as the Scottish Arbitration Centre.

And, despite Lord Gill’s claim of judges supporting the economy, it is unclear how much the judiciary is financially contributing to Scotland, given judges refuse to declare their financial interests.

Over the past two years, Lord Gill has fought a bitter battle with the Scottish Parliament who are considering a proposal called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary to creating a register of interests for judges.

The move to bring transparency to judges wealth, links to business & other interests comes after it emerged members of the judiciary have a significant proportion of their undeclared riches in offshore tax havens, arms length trusts, shareholdings in vested interests, energy firms, land ownership, companies linked to public contracts – some within the justice system itself, companies involved in organised crime and secretive links to big business, finance & banking.

A parliamentary debate at the Scottish Parliament which saw MSPs overwhelmingly support a motion urging the Scottish Government to consider a register of judicial interests was reported by Diary of Injustice along with video coverage here: Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

 

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Scottish Courts overstepped powers on requirements for ‘speaking’ lay assistants say msps, Justice Committee asked to investigate

Parliament_House,_EdinburghBlame Game : Did Scottish Government blunder over wording of ‘talking’ lay assistants laws, or did courts become too protective of lawyers vested interests? ACCUSATIONS of court interference & counter claims of blunders by the Scottish Government over the wording of legislationpassed by Holyrood in 2010 which conferred the right of lay assistants (otherwise known as McKenzie Friends) to address the court on behalf of party litigants have prompted a series of exchanges between msps, various court rule making bodies & the Lord President over claims the reforms intended to allow lay assistants to address courts are unworkable in their current state.

The widely praised ‘talking’ McKenzie Friend reform, was put forward in 2010 by the then Communities Safety Minister Fergus Ewing & reported by Diary of Injustice Scotland to get ‘talking’ McKenzie Friends as consumer pressure on court access & rights of audience prompts new proposals for Legal Services Bill, with the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 as it was later passed at Holyrood, giving the Court of Session powers in Sections 126 & 127 of the Act to make rules permitting a lay person to make oral submissions to the court on behalf of a party litigant.

A short consultation was then launched for views on how lay assistants with the ability to address the court, reported by Diary of Injustice HERE and the provisions for ‘talking’ lay representatives came into force on 1 September 2011.

The actual rules giving lay representatives the right to speak in the Court of Session only came into force earlier this month, after lengthy discussions between the various court bodies over ensuring McKenzie Friends could not charge for their services, a move which seems to have more to do with blocking any competition between McKenzie Friends & lawyers for business and thus sheltering lawyer’s profits, than ‘protecting’ the rights of party litigant.

However, somewhere in the mess of discussions between the courts which focussed too heavily on protecting their colleagues in the legal profession from losing out materially & financially to McKenzie Friends,  it now transpires the courts have added some conditions of their own, over and above those contained in primary legislation.  effectively blocking the rights of lay assistants to address the court.

A meeting of the Holyrood Subordinate Legislation Committee held on 26 June has now taken issue with the courts own version of the rules,  which requires “the prospective lay representative to make five different declarations relating to financial interests, confidentiality, convictions and whether or not the prospective lay representative has been declared a vexatious litigant. It is then within the discretion of the Court to decide whether the lay representative may appear. It may permit that appearance only if it is of the opinion that it would assist the Court.”

The Committee wrote to the then Lord President, Lord Hamilton, asking for further details which generated a response that “the requirement on a prospective lay representative to declare previous convictions was intended to require the disclosure of all convictions, including those which are spent for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.”, a condition which appears the courts have inserted themselves far & above what was allowed or envisaged via the Legal Services Act (Scotland) 2010.

The Committee, not being satisfied with responses received from the Lord President, has remitted the matter back to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee for further consideration, after it’s Convener, Nigel Don made it plain he felt the courts had overstepped the mark in enforcing stricter than necessary requirements for McKenzie Friends to address Scottish courts.

However a new problem for lay assistants being able to address the court has arisen, after a lay member of the Sheriff Court Rules Council apparently spoke out to the media, accusing the Scottish Government of making a mess of the wording of the Act, not the first time such accusations have been made about poorly thought out & weak or vague worded legislation concerning so-called ‘reforms’ in the justice system.

Asked for a comment on accusations made against the Scottish Government, a spokesperson for the Sheriff Court Rules Council declined to comment and the Scottish Government have not responded to queries over the matter.

Legal insiders have since speculated the wording of the Legal Services Act (Scotland) 2010 may have been purposely framed so vaguely as to allow members of the judiciary to refuse to allow lay representatives to be able to address the court on behalf of party litigants.

An insider said : “Given the recommendations contained in the civil courts review and the campaign at Holyrood to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts, it is at the very least, suspicious that the Scottish Government’s legal directorate failed to get the wording right on a key reform which the legal profession did not support.”

He went onto say : “With the worries of some in the legal profession that litigants may turn to using lay assistants rather than expensive legal teams who may end up generating large legal bills with little to show for it, one could perhaps speculate the badly worded sections are no accident, and were indeed designed to impede lay assistants, or McKenzie Friends from addressing the court”

Speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon, a solicitor based in England said he was appalled over the wrangle in Scotland over lay assistants. He said : “Only Scotland could manage to screw up McKenzie Friends with rights of audience features no one really wants. Was it done on purpose to discredit their use as time went on ? I think this could be a possibility.”

Diary of Injustice was involved in the campaign to bring McKenzie Friends to Scotland, more of which can be read here :Bringing McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s Courts

The discussion of the Holyrood Subordinate Legislation Committee follows :Holyrood Subordinate Legislation Committee 26 June meeting

Act of Sederunt (Rules of the Court of Session Amendment No. 3) (Miscellaneous) 2012 (SSI 2012/189) (Justice Committee)

45. This instrument amends the Rules of the Court of Session by inserting a new Chapter 12B which makes provision for lay representation before the court. It also revokes the Parts of Chapter 41 which relate to applications for permission to appeal against decisions of the Upper Tribunal.

46. The instrument is not subject to any parliamentary procedure and comes into force on 9 July 2012.

47. As part of its scrutiny of the instrument the Committee asked for clarification of various points from the Lord President’s Private Office (“the LPPO”). The correspondence is reproduced in Appendix 5.

48. The Court of Session (“the Court”) has power to make rules regulating the procedure and practice to be followed in that Court, in terms of section 5 of the Court of Session Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”). These Rules are made under that power and they modify the Act of Sederunt (Rules of the Court of Session 1994) 1994 (“the Rules of the Court of Session”).

49. This instrument makes two separate amendments to the Rules of the Court of Session: paragraph 2 inserts the new Chapter 12B on lay representation, and paragraph 3 revokes certain of the Parts of Chapter 41 which the Court declared to be ultra vires in the case of KP and MRK v Secretary of State for the Home Department. This report is concerned with new Chapter 12B only.

50. Section 126 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 amended section 5 of the 1988 Act to insert section 5(ef) which confers power on the Court to make rules “to permit a lay representative, when appearing at a hearing in any category of cause along with a party to the cause, to make oral submissions to the Court on the party’s behalf”.

51. Chapter 12B prescribes that the party who wishes to have a lay representative make oral submissions must enrol a motion accompanied by Form 12B.2. This form must be completed by the party and by the prospective lay representative. It requires the prospective lay representative to make five different declarations relating to financial interests, confidentiality, convictions and whether or not the prospective lay representative has been declared a vexatious litigant. It is then within the discretion of the Court to decide whether the lay representative may appear. It may permit that appearance only if it is of the opinion that it would assist the Court. It appears that the Court, in exercising that discretion, will take into account the declarations made on Form 12B.2.

52. In its response of 21 June 2012, the LPPO confirmed that the requirement on a prospective lay representative to declare previous convictions on Form 12B.2 was intended to require the disclosure of all convictions, including those which are spent for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (“the 1974 Act”).

53. The Committee observes that section 4 of the 1974 Act relieves persons whose convictions are spent from the ongoing consequences of having to declare a conviction. It notes in particular that section 4(1)(b) of the 1974 Act provides that such a person must not, in any proceedings before a judicial authority, be asked or required to answer any question relating to his or her past “which cannot be answered without acknowledging or referring to a spent conviction or spent convictions”. It further notes that section 4 of the 1974 Act is subject to the limitations on rehabilitation set out in section 7 of that Act, and to the exclusions set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2003, which is made by the Scottish Ministers in exercise of the powers conferred by section 7(4) of the 1974 Act.

54. It accordingly appears to the Committee that Form 12B.2, in so far as it requires persons to declare convictions which are otherwise spent, purports to disapply section 4(1) of the 1974 Act. The LPPO was asked to explain the basis on which such provision might lawfully be made. The LPPO takes the view that the rule-making powers of the Court in section 5(a), (b) and (ef) of the 1988 Act, when read in conjunction with section 7(3) of the 1974 Act, confer power upon the Court to make provision of this nature.

55. The Committee observes that the Parliament expressly conferred the power to make rules permitting lay representation before the Court when it enacted section 126 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, inserting section 5(ef) of the 1988 Act. The Court, in its judicial capacity, has held that section 5(a) of the 1988 Act cannot be relied on to supplement any of the specific powers otherwise conferred in that section. As the Lord President (Hope) commented in Taylor v Marshalls Food Group, “[h]ad Parliament taken the view that para. (a) was as general as counsel suggested, then it would not have found it necessary to insert the new paragraph […] to allow the court to make acts of sederunt in relation to expenses.” In light of this judgment of the Court the Committee takes the view that neither paragraph (a) nor (b) of section 5 enables the Court to make provision which, properly construed, is ancillary to the power to make rules permitting lay representation conferred by paragraph (ef).

56. Furthermore, in the Committee’s view there is nothing in paragraph (ef) which permits the Court to make rules which override primary legislation, in particular the prohibition on requirements to disclose spent convictions established by section 4(1) of the 1974 Act. It appears to the Committee that the Court is seeking, in its legislative capacity, to specifically override provision enacted by the UK Parliament in a manner which is not subject to the Parliament’s supervision. It observes that such a power exists but that it is a power exercisable, post-devolution, by the Scottish Ministers and only with the express approval of the Parliament.

57. So far as the LPPO seeks to rely on section 7(3) of the 1974 Act, the Committee accepts that this is a power exercisable by a “judicial authority” (a term which includes the Court) to require the disclosure of spent convictions. However, it notes that this power is subject to significant restrictions. First, and fundamentally, there is nothing in section 7(3) to suggest that it may be exercised by the Court in its legislative capacity. In the Committee’s view, it is quite clear from the reference to that power being exercisable “at any stage in any proceedings” that it is exercisable by the Court in its judicial capacity when dealing with individual cases. It is unpersuaded by the suggestion that the exercise of the Court’s legislative functions could be taken to constitute a stage in proceedings: the very nature of the rule-making function is that the resulting rules apply in all cases, and there would be no exercise of the section 7(3) power in each individual case. The Committee also notes that this power is exercisable only where the authority, in relation to the proceedings, considers that justice cannot be done without admitting evidence of spent convictions. The LPPO has not identified why it would invariably be the case that justice could not be done, where a lay representative is involved, unless that lay representative discloses spent convictions.

58. The Committee accordingly considers that the LPPO has not been able satisfactorily to explain how the Court may, by Act of Sederunt, disapply the provisions of section 4 of the 1974 Act. It does not consider that section 5 of the 1988 Act confers any such power. Furthermore, it is unpersuaded that section 7(3) of the 1974 Act is capable of being exercised in a blanket fashion by the Court in its legislative capacity. It appears to the Committee that section 7(3) is intended for use by any court when exercising its judicial functions on a case-by-case basis in individual court proceedings.

59. For these reasons, the Committee considers that it is doubtful whether this instrument is intra vires in so far as it inserts Form 12B.2 into the Rules of the Court of Session when that form is intended to require prospective lay representatives to disclose spent convictions. That provision appears to be of doubtful vires because it purports to disapply the effect of section 4(1) of the 1974 Act in the absence of any power enabling the Court of Session to make rules to that effect.

60. The Committee therefore draws the instrument to the attention of the Parliament on reporting ground (e) as there appears to be a doubt about the vires. There appears to be a doubt whether the instrument is intra vires in so far as it inserts Form 12B.2 into the Rules of the Court of Session, when the purported effect of that form is to require a prospective lay representative to make a declaration disclosing spent convictions. That provision appears to be of doubtful vires because it purports to disapply the effect of section 4(1) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in the absence of any identifiable power enabling the Court of Session to make provision to that effect.

61. Furthermore, the Committee draws this matter to the attention of the Justice Committee as lead committee on the instrument. This instrument is not subject to any further parliamentary procedure but purports to make substantive provision which modifies the rights and protections of individuals and disapplies primary legislation. The Committee accordingly considers that this raises an important constitutional point about the respective functions of the Parliament and the rule-making authority, and recommends that the Justice Committee consider the matter further.

APPENDIX 6

Act of Sederunt (Rules of the Court of Session Amendment No. 3) (Miscellaneous) 2012 (SSI 2012/189)

On 19 June 2012, the Lord President’s Private Office was asked:

Form 12B.2, as inserted by the Schedule to this instrument, requires the prospective lay representative to make certain declarations. In particular, paragraph (d) requires that person to declare that he or she has no previous convictions, or alternatively to list those previous convictions. However, section 4 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides, inter alia, that a person who has become a rehabilitated person “…shall be treated for all purposes in law as a person who has not committed or been charged with or prosecuted for or convicted of or sentenced for the offence or offences which were the subject of that conviction…” and in particular that such a person shall not, in any proceedings before a judicial authority, be asked or required to answer any question relating to his or her past “…which cannot be answered without acknowledging or referring to a spent conviction or spent convictions…”. The Lord President’s Private Office is asked:

(a) Is it intended that a person who has become a rehabilitated person (and whose convictions are spent) should be required to disclose those convictions notwithstanding section 4 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974?

(b) If that is the case, to identify the power which is relied upon to make such provision; or

(c) If that is not the case, to explain why it is considered that Form 12B.2 makes it sufficiently clear (in particular having regard to the likelihood that the form will be completed by those who are not legally qualified) that the prospective lay representative need not declare spent convictions.

The Lord President’s Private Office responded as follows: (a) Yes.

(b) The powers to make the court rules are contained in sections 5 and 5A of the Court of Session Act 1988. In particular, paragraphs (a), (b) and (ef) of section 5 are relevant for these purposes. The Lord President’s Private Office takes the view that the court’s rule-making powers also require to be read against the background of section 7(3) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which enables the court, at any stage in any proceedings, to require evidence relating to a person’s spent convictions, notwithstanding the terms of section 4(1) of the 1974 Act, where the court is satisfied in the light of any considerations which appear to it to be relevant that justice cannot be done except by admitting or requiring the evidence relating to those spent convictions. Other exclusions of section 4(1) of the 1974 Act (including exclusions relating to certain types of proceedings in the Court of Session) are set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2003.

(c) In light of the answer to question (a), question (c) does not require to be answered.

 

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The Law Society from Hell : Scots face decade of closed shop, low quality & high cost crooked lawyers as solicitors demand access to justice monopoly goes on

law-in-scotlandAs predicted, Law Society of Scotland’s ‘one profession’ conference result : More client rip-offs on the way. ANOTHER DECADE OF LEGAL RIP-OFFS via poor regulation, consistently poor quality legal services, the worst levels of access to justice in the entire UK & the lowest possible form of consumer protection when things go wrong between clients & solicitors, is on the way for unsuspecting & unwary consumers of legal services in Scotland, according to the Law Society of Scotland ‘new strategy’ for the next decade up to 2020, published earlier this week as a result of the society’s annual conference : “Law in Scotland- One Profession”.

According to the Law Society’s Press Release following its annual conference, the society stated its new strategic aim as ‘to lead and support a successful and respected Scottish legal profession’ in its ‘Towards 2020’ strategy document and has set out five principal objectives against which it will assess and measure its performance over the coming years.

The latest ‘key objectives’ announced, which remain unachievable even after SIXTY YEARS of the Law Society of Scotland’s existence, are :

Excellent solicitor professionalism and reputation (Ignoring huge levels of fraud & theft involving clients funds, legal aid fraud, involvement in organised crime, tax fraud, criminality, etc is on the rise within the profession)

Law Society of Scotland members are trusted advisers of choice (Trust a member of the Law Society of Scotland, kiss goodbye to your life as you knew it before legal difficulties, home repossession, faltering finances, personal bankruptcy & family break up all set in as a result of clients misplaced trust)

Law Society of Scotland members are economically active and sustainable (Economically active enough to inflate fee notes & play clients along for years, charging for work which in most cases never leads to a solution to the client’s legal problems)

The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body and regulator of choice (Another decade of corrupt regulation of complaints against crooked lawyers where solicitors cover up for their colleagues)

The Law Society of Scotland is a high performing organisation (High performing for solicitors, non performing for clients)

The 4m Crooked Lawyer - Daily Record 1991The Law Society of Scotland’s vision for next 10 years – we should expect more multi-million pound crooked lawyers. The now familiar annual claims from the Law Society of Scotland cut little truth in terms of reality, as the levels of frauds committed by crooked lawyers against their clients are significantly on the rise in Scotland, doubtless due to the recession & general downturn in business which has brought about many new creative ways by law firms to rip off clients, including use of Scotland’s Sheriff Courts to pursue clients for alleged fees due for non existent work on court cases which commonly never see a court room or a legal remedy.

Cameron RitchieLaw Society President Cameron Ritchie. Commenting on the Law Society’s desire to remain in charge of exactly who in Scotland it decides should have access to justice, the Society’s current president, Cameron Ritchie, said: “The pace of change for the legal profession, like others, has been tremendous in recent years and of course there has been the additional challenge of the economic downturn. It’s vital for any successful organisation to take time to step back from the day to day operations and look at where we are headed. We must plan what our key priorities should be and how we can best anticipate future opportunities and challenges in order to properly support the profession, which in turn helps our members better serve their own clients, now and into the future.”

The Law Society further stated that a review of its work was initiated by its Council and the final strategy, approved by Council members last month, has had input from groups of members, faculties and firms, as well as senior management and staff at the Society. The Council has considered economic, social and political change which is likely to impact the legal sector and the opportunities these change could bring in addition to any challenges for members.

The statement did not make any mention the Council of the Law Society of Scotland was branded “fundamentally dishonest at its core” by a now former Council Member, John McGovern who, it is claimed “has been critical of the Society’s policy on ABS, and has campaigned against the dual functions of representation and regulation being vested in the Society, amongst other issues.”.

Law Society President Cameron Ritchie again : “The outlook for the next few years remains challenging and we know that solicitors will continue to feel the effects of a tough economic climate. Social change will also impact on our members as consumers of legal services become increasingly well informed and will seek the best and most cost effective services available to them. This makes reputation and quality assurance for solicitors and their firms even more important. As a professional body, it will be our role to promote a deeper understanding of the solicitor brand to the public.

Mr Ritchie said the Law Society was now looking to bring in more female solicitors into the profession. he continued : “The legal sector itself is changing and we are seeing a younger profession with the gender balance swinging towards females. There are also pressures on some specific areas of legal practice, such as the criminal bar, and a growing number of ’employed status’ solicitors.”

Fergus Ewing Scottish ParliamentFergus Ewing, Communities Minister in 2010 was made a laughing stock after Law Society forced him to announce major pro-lawyer changes to a wider-consumer-choice-in-legal-services law. The Law Society also praised the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, (a much watered down out version of the UK Legal Services Act 2007) which took the SNP Scottish Government three years longer than Westminster MPs to consider, and was only passed after the Law Society heavily amended its intentions, at one point turning Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing into a shrivelled-up laughing stock after Mr Ewing was forced by the Law Society to withdraw major parts of the reforming legislation which had intended to put consumers in charge of their own access to justice although not to the same degree as consumers in England & Wales enjoy. Such were the amendments ordered by the Law Society to the Scottish Government’s legal services bill, the latest timetable from the Scottish Government has indicated that alternative business structures are unlikely to become a reality until at least summer 2012.

An earlier article reporting on how the Legal Services (Scotland) Act was passed, is here : ‘Choice’ but not as we know it : Legal Services Bill passed, Scots access to justice remains mostly under Law Society’s control and the chequered history of the Legal Services Bill at the Scottish Parliament can be read here : Legal Services Bill for Scotland, giving consumers no access to justice.

More examples of how the then Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing danced to the tune of the Law Society of Scotland & its members, can be found HERE, HERE, & HERE.

Law Society President Cameron Ritchie added: “In addition to this we also have to be aware of the political context in which we work and the changes coming down the track which will affect the profession. Given the cross party support for the Scotland bill we can predict further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament and we know there is strong political will to see reforms proposed by Lord Gill introduced. We await the outcomes of the ongoing reviews by Lord Carloway and Lord McCluskey. Within such a period of change, we want everyone, whether they are a solicitor or member of the public, to be able to understand our organisation’s purpose and vision for the next five to 10 years.”

The Scots public do not need to wait to understand the Law Society of Scotland’s purpose & vision for the next ten years, as the last two decades of record levels of client fraud & corruption within the Scottish legal profession, held together by the Law Society and its persistent crop of leaders who ensure the legal profession’s vested interests come before consumers, serve as warning from the past the same will continue until fully independent regulation of legal services is a reality, and anti-consumer closed shop institutions such as the Law Society of Scotland are consigned to the dustbin if history.

 

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Lawyers can talk, yet fee paying clients & court users remain shut out of Scottish Government review of the costs & funding of litigation in Scotland

Scottish GovernmentScots public have not yet been asked to give opinions on Scottish Govt. costs of justice review. THE continuing theme of inequality in how the legal profession are treated differently to consumers, fee paying clients & court users of Scotland’s Justice system has reared its head once again as questions surfaced today over why the actual people who pay for Scotland’s costly courts system, those being taxpayers, consumers, and obviously, real life court users such as party litigants & fee-paying clients of solicitors have so-far been excluded from a call for contributions to the Scottish Government’s Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation In Scotland.

While members of the public and actual court users have yet to be asked to input into Sheriff Taylor’s review of the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review recommendations on lowering the long time extortionate cost of access to Scotland’s civil courts, it transpires the legal profession were invited to give their own input & opinions to Sheriff Taylor’s team some three weeks ago when the legal profession’s own internal media asked for Scotland’s solicitors to give their contributions to the Taylor review team directly.

A legal insider who brought the matter to the attention of Diary of Injustice earlier this week claimed the Law Society of Scotland were keen to encourage as many solicitors as possible to submit contributions with a theme highlighting the invaluable work of solicitors in the legal system on which it is to be claimed, the Scots public must depend on for professional legal services and thus, access to justice.

The insider said : “I understand the Law Society is keen to refute the notion that access to justice in Scotland is unnecessarily expensive and out of reach for most consumers.”

Documents & discussions made available to Diary of Injustice portray a legal profession willing to ‘talk down’ many of Lord Gill’s criticisms of the costs of litigation in Scotland’s civil courts, out of what appears to be lawyers main fears of losing fee-paying clients & huge profits. There appears to be little attempt on the part of the legal profession to address key concerns expressed by many that access to justice in Scotland is in reality only available to those with money, and is mainly something of a rip-off to anyone who manages to walk through the doors of a court.

Discussions also reveal senior lawyers appear to be engaged in attempts to discourage any wider assistance or encouragement for members of the public to literally take justice into their own hands by using or even becoming McKenzie Friends, an idea first recommended by Lord Gill in his Civil Courts Review and subsequently introduced to Scots case law in November 2009 after a ruling by Lord Woolman in what is Scotland’s longest running civil damages claim : M.Wilson v North Lanarkshire Council & Others (A1628/01).

Questions were put to the Scottish Government earlier this week and today about the lack of any invitation as-yet to consumers & actual court users to participate in Sheriff Taylor’s review. No response was received. The Taylor review team also failed to respond to enquiries.

Sheriff Taylor’s review team asked the legal profession for their thoughts & contributions nearly three weeks ago. The invitation to the legal profession, published 20 June 2011, stated : “One of the basic premises of the Review is that any recommendation should address an identifiable mischief in Scotland’s expenses and funding regime. To that end, the Review welcomes contributions from members of the profession as to where they consider change is required. Comments may then be invited on such suggestions in the consultation paper.”

“Contributions to the Review should be sent to Kay McCorquodale, Secretary to the Review, at Area 3 G South, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ or, if by email, to enquiries@taylorreview.org  Please advise if your response should be treated as confidential.”

While a consultation paper is intended to be published around August of this year, the Taylor review team have not yet invited members of the public or court users to give their thoughts on the costs & funding of litigation in Scotland for the proposed consultation paper.

To ensure an adequate consultation paper is produced, and to ensure the review team are able to hear from actual court users and those of us who end up paying huge amounts of money for legal services in Scotland, I would encourage those of you who have used our expensive Scottish “Victorian” justice system, to study the terms of the review, prepare a submission, and contact the Taylor review team by email, documenting your relevant experiences in the justice system, whether good or bad. I would also encourage any of those who wish to participate in the Taylor review, to also contact their MSP and ask them to submit their thoughts on the extortionate costs of accessing justice in Scotland.

More information on the Taylor Review can be found on the Scottish Government’s website, here : Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation In Scotland

In order to assist in formulating recommendations Sheriff Principal Taylor has appointed a Reference Group. The Group will meet from time to time, as and when required. Sheriff Principal Taylor alone will be responsible for the conduct and conclusions of the review. The Reference Group, as currently constituted, consists of the following members :

Ian Johnston, Claims Manager (Technical), Aviva Insurance (one of the insurance firms who are part of the Law Society of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt Master Policy), Paul Wade (Solicitor), Wendy Sheehan (Solicitor), Joyce Cullen (Solicitor), Ronnie Conway (Solicitor), Lindsay Montgomery (Chief Executive, Scottish Legal Aid Board), Andrew Smith QC (Faculty of Advocates), Shona Haldane QC (Faculty of Advocates), Paul Brown (Chief Executive, Legal Services Agency), Professor Alan Paterson (Strathclyde University, also currently sits on Scottish Legal Complaints Commission), Professor John Sawkins (Heriot-Watt University) Sarah O’Neill (Consumer Focus Scotland), Stewart Mullen (Law Accountant)

I initially reported on the Scottish Government’s announcement of Sheriff Taylor’s review in an earlier article in March of this year, here : Scottish Government delay reforms on costs of litigation & access to justice as Minister announces 18 month ‘time wasting’ review by retired sheriff

The announcement from the Scottish Government, made by the Minister for Community Safety, Mr Ewing, stated : “A review of the costs and funding of litigation in Scotland will be undertaken by Sheriff Principal James Taylor. This review was recommended by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill in his report of the Review of the Scottish Civil Courts. Sheriff Principal Taylor will begin the review when he retires from the bench in April. It is anticipated that the review will take around 18 months and the final report will be sent to the Scottish Ministers for consideration of further action, on completion.”

The terms of reference for the EIGHTEEN MONTH LONG review announced by the Scottish Government are :

To review the costs and funding of civil litigation in the Court of Session and Sheriff Court in the context of the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review, and the response of the Scottish Government to that review. In undertaking this review, to:

* consult widely, gather evidence, compare our expenses regime with those of other jurisdictions and have regard to research and previous enquiries into costs and funding, including the Civil Litigation Costs Review of Lord Justice Jackson

* consider issues in relation to the affordability of litigation; the recoverability and assessment of expenses; and different models of funding litigation (including contingency, speculative and conditional fees, before and after the event insurance, referral fees and claims management)

* consider the extent to which alternatives to public funding may secure appropriate access to justice, and pay particular attention to the potential impact of any recommendations on publically funded legal assistance

* have regard to the principles of civil justice outlined in Chapter 1, paragraph 5 of the Civil Courts Review

* consider other factors and reasons why parties may not litigate in Scotland

* report with recommendations to Scottish Ministers, together with supporting evidence within 18 months of the work commencing.

BACKGROUND TO CIVIL JUSTICE REFORM IN SCOTLAND

Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference last year, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

Against the background of Lord Gill’s criticisms of Scotland’s “Victorian” civil justice system, in which some cases continue to be heard by judges some fifteen years after they first entered the court system, the current Scottish Government have a poor track record of responding to the many recommendations contained in Lord Gill’s 2009 Civil Courts Review, as I have previously reported, here : Civil Courts Review one year on : Scotland’s out-of-reach justice system remains Victorian, untrustworthy and still controlled by vested interests & here : Scottish Government’s response to Civil Courts Review : Class Actions, more cases to Sheriff Courts, & faster, easier access to justice ‘over years’.

Sadly, many of the Scottish Parliament’s msps failed to push the SNP administration to address much of the 100 year plus malaise of Scotland’s civil courts system. Only a handful of Scottish politicians rose to the occasion to challenge the Scottish Government over Lord Gill’s recommendations. Video footage of those Holyrood debates on civil justice reform & Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review can be viewed at LawyerTV.

Readers can find out more & download a copy of the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links :

Volume 1 Chapter 1 – 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb)

Volume 2 Chapter 10 – 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb)

Synopsis of Civil Courts Review

My coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, and the pace of reforms to civil justice in Scotland can be found here : Civil Courts Review – The story so far

 

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Scottish Arbitration : A ‘World Class Disaster’ with Law Society, Advocates, Surveyors, Marsh UK & Fettesgate justice, all backed by Scottish Government

Law Society & Scottish GovernmentScottish arbitration backed by Law Society & Scottish Govt of no use to clients, say insiders. SCOTTISH ARBITRATION, a new ‘business’ which has sprung up in the wake of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 backed by the Scottish Government, with participants such as the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, is “a seedy world full of unaccountable self regulators, dishonest insurance companies and suspect individuals” say legal insiders & consumer groups, warning those who may be considering using arbitration or bringing their arbitration business to Scotland “to forget it and look elsewhere”.

john_murray_qcScottish Arbitration Centre appointed ex Court of Session judge who resigned over ‘officially unexplained allegations’. The recommendation to avoid using the very much self regulator dominated arbitration market in Scotland comes in the wake of a recent report by Scottish Law Reporter, revealing a former Court of Session judge, Lord Dervaird, aka Prof. John Murray QC the judge who STUNNED the Scots legal establishment in the early 1990s by resigning in a cloud of rumours connected to the FETTESGATE ‘Gay Justice Conspiracy’ scandal in which several journalists were arrested to cover up allegations against senior members of Scotland’s judiciary, has been appointed as an Honorary Vice President of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, a ‘joint venture’ opened by the SNP’s Fergus Ewing and backed by the Scottish Government, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

marshDisgraced US insurers Marsh operating here as Marsh UK insure many backers of Scottish Arbitration Centre. It can also be revealed that most or all of the organisations participating in Scottish Arbitration market have links to the disgraced insurers, Marsh, who were convicted in the United States of market rigging. Marsh also arrange professional indemnity insurance for the Law Society of Scotland through its notoriously corrupt Master Insurance Policy, itself linked to deaths in an independent report, and also provides the same insurance to Scotland’s Faculty of Advocates. Marsh are also used by many departments of the Scottish Government, local government and the private sector in Scotland for insurance coverage so if your dispute involves a profession insured by Marsh, a fair hearing in arbitration may be very hard to obtain.

Fergus Ewing Jim Mather Scottish Arbitration CentreFergus Ewing, Jim Mather & Brandon Malone nab create the arbitration business. The Scottish Arbitration Centre made the announcement of the appointment of ex judge Lord Dervaird, stating “A former Court of Session judge, Lord Dervaird has experience as an arbitrator and as counsel in numerous international arbitration proceedings. He wrote the National Report, Scotland, in the ICCA International Handbook on Commercial Arbitration in 1995. He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh, and lectures on international arbitration at London (King’s College) and Strathclyde Universities.” No mention of exactly why Lord Dervaird was “a former Court of Session judge” was made in the Arbitration Centre’s media release, something potential clients may wish to know.

According to Scottish Law Reporter : The Scottish Arbitration Centre came about after a specific proposal for an arbitration centre was presented by Brandon Malone, solicitor advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Government’s steering group at a meeting last year between Fergus Ewing and representatives of the bodies authorised to act as Arbitral Appointments Referees (AARs) under the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010. Mr Malone, who also happens to be Chairman of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, has been involved with the SNP for many years and was the party’s “Assistant Spokesperson on Justice & Equality” in the late 90’s, famed among other things yet to be published, for writing letters in the Scotsman newspaper defending the legal profession and its stance on regulation.

The much hyped Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 pushed through by the SNP Scottish Government aimed to promote domestic & international arbitration under Scots Law and seeks to promote Scotland as a place to arbitrate disputes, legal & otherwise. In the over hyped campaign, the then Communities & Justice Minister Fergus Ewing claimed : “Scotland is now well positioned to be a ‘world leader in the lucrative international arbitration scene”.

This latest move on the part of the SNP Scottish Government to create a new business dominated and almost exclusively controlled by Scotland’s closed shop legal services sector, comes on the heels of a FAILED campaign in 2008 by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to encourage foreign firms & clients to bring litigation to Scotland. Wisely, international clientele heeded warnings on the perils of the Scottish justice system and stayed away from Mr MacAskill’s bid to attract litigants to the Scottish courts, a campaign which flopped within a few months.

Critics of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 and its passage through the Scottish Parliament point out the legislation was put through Hollyrood at the suggestion of the Scottish legal establishment to corner the arbitration market, seen as a lucrative business to be controlled before ‘outside elements’ took it over. The legislation seeks to increase the number of arbitrations under Scots Law while also increasing the level of business for arbitration advisers and the number of appointments of arbitrators based in Scotland, as long as they are agreeable to, or members of, or are under the control of the same organisations who are in partnership with the Scottish Arbitration Centre.

jamie_millarFormer President Jamie Millar welcomed Law Society’s new business venture in the guise of independent arbitration. Speaking at the time of the Scottish Arbitration Centre’s opening, Jamie Millar, the former President of the Law Society of Scotland admitted the whole idea of Scottish arbitration was a Law Society sponsored operation. Mr Millar said : “At the request of our members, the Society campaigned for new arbitration laws and was actively involved in the passage of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 through the Scottish Parliament. We have long supported the idea of having a focal point to promote the value of arbitration to Scottish businesses so are delighted to see that the new opportunities the act presents are being seized, and that international arbitrations are being encouraged to locate in Scotland.”

Faculty of Advocates crestThe Faculty of Advocates were also keen to corner lucrative arbitration business. Alan Dewar QC, Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates, welcomed the plan, saying : “The Faculty of Advocates is pleased to have participated in the planning and preparations leading to today’s launch of the Scottish Arbitration Centre. It looks forward to playing its part in promoting arbitration (both domestic and international) as a useful, cost-effective alternative to litigation. Quite apart from being a beautiful country to visit, Scotland is ideally placed to offer a first class arbitration service in terms of expertise, facilities and surroundings. The Faculty is delighted that the Centre is to be located at Dolphin House in the Old Town of Edinburgh, very close to the Faculty’s base.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said today the arbitration market in Scotland appears to be cornered & controlled by the legal profession and elements of other professions who themselves are the biggest causes of cases which end up requiring arbitration.

She said : “This is clearly an attempt by a few professions to control the arbitration market for themselves.”

She continued : “There is a danger here where consumers may be fooled into thinking that taking their case to arbitration is a faster, cheaper way of obtaining a resolution to their problem rather than embarking on costly litigation in Scotland’s courts. However those same consumers may not be aware those who are in the arbitration market are backed by the same professions and even the same indemnity insurance companies they already have problems with.  I would therefore advise consumers to view arbitration with a degree of suspicion otherwise they may end up being bitten twice.”

A client who contacted Diary of Injustice about a long running high value negligence case against an Edinburgh law firm has recently been urged by his own solicitors to take his case to arbitration instead of going to court. He was suspicious of the move and asked for advice.

He said : “My own lawyers now want me to take my case to arbitration instead of the Court of Session but I don’t believe arbitration will reveal the extent of my solicitor’s negligence and how a large sum of money disappeared from my business. I want a ruling because my former lawyer is a thief and a liar. I also don’t want my huge financial loss turned into a paltry settlement.The money is missing and it is my first lawyer’s fault, it should be repaid and he should be found out in court.”

He continued : “I wondered why this sudden rush after my own lawyers worked on my case for three years and said I had a good chance of winning. After I found out the Law Society of Scotland were involved in the arbitration scheme and that it has something to do with the Master Policy insurers who are the defenders in my court action, I asked my lawyer who very reluctantly confirmed the facts. He admitted they were all tied up with the same insurers. I will be staying well away from this so-called arbitration, thanks.”

A Scottish Courts insider said today it would be foolhardy for foreign litigants to come to Scotland on the back of claims of legal expertise which do not exist.

He said : “If the Scottish Government wish to attract litigation or arbitration to Scotland they should first address the important recommendations raised by Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill in the Civil Courts Review to ensure Scots civil law is fit for purpose. Currently it is not and we now have a situation where the Scottish Government would rather rush through legislation to suit the ends of business & vested interests than reform the civil justice system upon which the likes of civil litigation & arbitration depends.”

Whether you are a company, or an individual, make sure you know the full facts before becoming involved in the Scottish version of arbitration, which more often than not is controlled & financially supported by the same industry or profession you case or dispute involves. Disputes arbitrated by vested interests do not guarantee a fair hearing, rather they guarantee only an unfair outcome.

If you are being pushed into arbitration in Scotland by professionals who themselves stand to make a lot of money out of it, or perhaps want something covered up while making sure you don’t really get the full measure of what a court ruling will provide, stay away from it. Just remember which particular industries & self regulators control the Scottish arbitration market, a state of affairs which clearly makes Scottish arbitration nothing less than a World Class Disaster.

Background of Fettesgate :

Fettes thief cons gay judges probe The SunProbe into gay justice scandal was itself discredited after further newspaper allegations. Fettesgate was the term given to a major scandal involving the Lothian and Borders Police force in the 1990s, from its Fettes Avenue headquarters near Fettes College in Edinburgh.The “Fettesgate scandal”, as the incident was quickly called, began in the early hours of 19 July 1992, when burglars spent three hours in the Fettes headquarters of the police force. The break-in, through an unsecured window of the Scottish Crime Squad’s ground-floor offices in the HQ building, led to several confidential documents being stolen and Animal Liberation Front slogans being sprayed on the walls.

Cases for ConcernMany claimed Police were directed to arrest journalists to cover up scandal in the judiciary. Two journalists who reported on the incident after receiving tip-offs were arrested; Alan Muir, a reporter for The Sun, wrote a story based on an anonymous telephone call on the day of the incident, and was detained for six hours, and Ron McKay, a journalist for Scotland on Sunday found documents after another anonymous call six days later. When he wrote a story based on the documents, he was arrested at dawn, while at his girlfriend’s house in Chatham, Kent. He was held overnight, and charged with reset, the crime under Scots law of receiving stolen property. The charges were dropped six months later. The stolen documents concerned the police’s use of “telephone metering”; recording the destination and duration of suspects’ telephone calls, without listening in on them. Although this was regarded as legal, the controversy led to a debate about privacy and what safeguards were needed regarding information gathered in this way.

How I Mugged Man from the Crown Office the Sun 18 December 1992Lothian & Borders Police were branded incompetent and Animal Liberation Front were blamed to take heat off scandal hit judiciary. The theft of such sensitive material from what should have been such a secure place, under the very noses of the police, led to questions being asked about the competence of the Lothian and Borders force to take charge of the European summit in Edinburgh later that year. It transpired that the Animal Liberation Front had not been involved in the break-in. The chief constable later admitted that the treatment of Mr McKay was tactless and apologised to the editor of Scotland on Sunday.

Aggrieved PoliceScots judiciary & Police were thrown into significant disrepute by gay conspiracy allegations. Nobody has yet been charged with the break-in, leading some journalists who have covered the story to believe that the burglar’s identity (allegedly a police informer) is known to the police, but that they fear he might embarrass the force in court. The return of the sensitive files was allegedly the result of senior detectives reaching an immunity deal with a man close to the city’s gay criminal underworld. An internal report is believed to have been completed by the police force on the matter, but has never been released to the public.

In a typically Scottish move, an investigation & subsequent report was written by members of the Scots legal establishment on the Fettesgate allegations, clearing everyone That report, widely disputed & discredited since its publication, can be read online or downloaded here : the report on an inquiry into an allegation of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in scotland by WA Nimmo Smith QC & JD Friel

 

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The Scheme : Law Society’s new regulation committee pitches old joke of ‘lay membership’ as more ‘slaps on the wrist’ for crooked lawyers expected

Law Society of ScotlandOld Joke returns : Law Society indulges in spin on lay membership as yet another new beginning for regulation.  THE latest attempt by the Law Society of Scotland to deal with the issue of regulation of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt legal services market as yet another regulation committee was revealed yesterday with the announcement of yet more lay members and another regulatory committee to comply with the laughably lax regulatory requirements of the Scottish Government’s Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, the half hearted & much interfered with attempt to comply with recommendations by the Office of Fair Trading to open up Scotland’s closed shop solicitor dominated legal services market.

The ‘duties’ of this new regulatory committee, with yet more lay members, those oh-so-honourable lay members who allow the Law Society to justify its continued stranglehold over the regulation & lack of protection of Scots consumers who are duped, fleeced, ripped-off and ruined by their legal representatives on a daily basis, are contained in Section 133 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which reads like a criminal’s recipe for money complaints laundering & regulation dodging.

However, the Law Society’s not-so-shiny-or-new regulatory committee has its roots mired in controversy, double dealing & threats against the legislation which created it, all culminating in a significant climb-down by the Scottish Government on its proposals to specify the number of lay members on the Law Society’s ruling Council as I reported  here : Scottish Government back down on lay appointments to Law Society Council as lawyers interests threaten to break pro-consumer legal services bill

Fergus EwingEmbarrassing forced retreat by Scottish Government Minister after Law Society threats over council & committee make-up. Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s now former Minister for Communities & Safety appeared at a Law Society ‘road show’ last year to announce to angry solicitors their beloved ‘Council of the Law Society of Scotland’ would remain a lawyer-only club, making the following announcement :“The power of Scottish Ministers to make regulations specifying the proportion of lay members and the criteria for selection was intended as a fall-back, only to be used in the unlikely event that there would be a need to resolve any disagreements regarding the proportion of lay members.”

Mr Ewing continued : “Following representations from the Law Society of Scotland, in which it re-affirmed its commitment to lay appointments, I no longer consider it necessary for Scottish Ministers to have this fall-back power. Therefore, I intend to bring forward an amendment at Stage 2 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill to delete section 92(4), (5) and (6) of the Bill.”

A solicitor attending the Law Society road show branded Mr Ewing’s appearance & speech as “comical”, saying the Minister appeared at the show like a schoolboy awaiting corporal punishment. A video of Mr Ewing’s speech briefly published by the Law Society was quickly taken down as some indicated it looked too embarrassing for Mr Ewing, who has since been replaced in his role by Roseanna Cunningham.

The Law Society of Scotland issued a Press Release, promoting its latest committee abortion creation as “a significant step for the Society” yet lay members have populate much of the Law Society of Scotland’s committee structure, and as the records show, have simply acted as a rubber stamp for the Society’s wishes & determined effort to undermine any legal reforms which intend to place consumer protection over the vested interests of the legal profession and self regulation.

The Law Society today claimed : “The new committee will work independently from the Society’s Council on regulatory matters, with all of the Society’s current regulatory sub-committees now reporting to it. “

Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The calibre of those applying to join the regulatory committee was extremely high and we were struck by the range and depth of talent of applicants and the enthusiasm they displayed for the work of the Society.

Mr Ritchie continued : “The appointment of the committee is a significant step for the Society as we move towards new types of legal services businesses becoming a reality. The Society is continuing to develop a regulatory framework for Licensed Legal Services Providers which will be as rigorous as that for solicitors, and the committee will have an important role to play as we move forwards.”

The committee members, who include non-solicitors from a wide range of backgrounds including education, the medical sector, surveying and accountancy, will choose a lay convener from amongst the five non-solicitor members. Solicitors Alison Atack, Frank MacAuley, Jane MacEachran and Alistair Morris will be joined by the five new lay members. A further solicitor appointment will also be made. The lay members of the regulatory committee are: chartered surveyor James Allan, head teacher Carole Ford, Professor Kay Hampton, chartered accountant Alan Plumtree and Elaine Tait, chief executive of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The Law Society of Scotland refused to release any photographs of its latest lay Committee Members, in keeping with it’s tradition of keeping Scots consumers in the dark over who exactly decides on complaints against ‘crooked lawyers’. Clearly however this is wrong. Consumers, clients of solicitors and the public have a right to know exactly who it is who sits on these Law Society of Scotland committees.

These people, along with those who sit on the board of the anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are making anonymous, unaccountable decisions which affect the lives of anyone using legal services. Those individuals or groups who make these decisions on the quality of legal services which affect the lives of ordinary people and solicitors alike, should be identifiable by a current photograph if their positions are in any way connected with consumer protection or regulation.

As a journalist and a law reform campaigner, I always wonder about the motives & make up of such people who clamour to join an organisation such as the Law Society of Scotland which is already known to have threatened the Scottish Government & Scottish Parliament with legal action if it did not get its way, has interfered with litigants legal aid applications, undermined consumer protection & client rights, personally targeted critics & litigants pursuing ‘crooked lawyers’ through the courts, has whispered in the ears of judges to influence verdicts in civil cases, has regularly provided false information to newspapers, has been linked to & covered up the deaths of its members clients and has within its ranks, officials who have used connections with Police forces to intimidate clients who dared complain against solicitors.

Indeed, what motives & what kind of person would clamour to join such an organisation and such a scheme aimed at ensuring solicitors sleep soundly at night while clients rot in ruin ?

An official with one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said today : “The latest Law Society attempt to control regulation through yet another committee will not change the circumstances of consumers who face historically prejudiced self regulation by the legal profession”.

A client turned campaigner whose bitter experiences with the Law Society became part of the SLCC’s 2009 report on the Master Policy said  : “The committee lay membership at the Law Society of Scotland has proved time and again it is a sham. It does nothing to enhance consumer protection or give clients a fair hearing against solicitors who have the Legal Defence Union standing by their side while the complainant remains unrepresented.”

The backgrounds of those the Law Society of Scotland consider to be “lay people” :

James Allan (East Lothian – Surveyor) – Chartered Surveyor. Honorary Secretary of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors from 2004 to 2010.  Former Chairman of the Institution’s Nominations Committee Independent Adjudicator and Mediator in many construction disputes.

Carole Ford (Glasgow – Education) – Head Teacher, Kilmarnock Academy.  Current Council Member for the General Teaching Council Scotland as well as current Convener of Disciplinary Sub-Committee of the Council Scotland.  Former President of Schools Leaders Scotland.  Board member of Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Professor Kay Hampton (Glasgow – Higher Education) – Emeritus Professor in Community and Race Relations at Glasgow Caledonian University. Commissioner to the Scottish Human Rights Commission.  Member of Children’s Panel in Glasgow.  Former Commissioner of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.  Former Chair, Deputy Chair and Commissioner, Scotland and UK for the Commission for Racial Equality.  Former Chair and UK Board Member for the Community Fund, Lottery Fund.

Alan Plumtree (Dunblane – Accountancy) – Chartered Accountant.  Current Partner in the firm of French Duncan LLP.  Former Senior Audit Partner and member of that firm’s Management Committee.  Extensive involvement with the Committees of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland including the Practitioner Certification Committee, Regulation and Compliance Board, Professional Standards Liaison Committee and Examination Board.

Elaine Tait (Kinross – Medical) – Chief Executive of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE).  Quality Assurance Partner of the General Medical Council (GMC).  Member of the Royal College’s Lay Advisory Committee.  Former Reporter for the Society for the Client Relations Committee as well as a member of the Client Relations Committee as well as a member of a Client Relations Committee.  Also member of the Society’s Professional Conduct Committee as well as the Shadow Regulatory Committee.

 

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FREQUENT SPENDERS : Cash rich Scottish Legal Complaints Commission gives £1million back to lawyers, avoids repaying £2 million owed to public purse

SLCC 2 millionCash rich law quango SLCC gives £1 million gift back to lawyers in latest budget. GREED IS GOOD if you happen to work in the Scottish legal profession as it was revealed today the anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) which received a massive TWO MILLION POUNDS from taxpayers to fund its start up costs which included luxurious offices, financial perks & lavish expenses claims for board members, is yet again giving greedy lawyers a financial boost by releasing £1 million of its near £1.8 million cash stash back to the legal profession to reduce levies on crooked lawyers.

While the SLCC and its extravagantly expenses claiming & quangocrat filled board continue to refuse to repay even one penny of the £2 million of public funds it received in 2007- 2008, money which could prop up a wide range of public services or be put to much better use inside other parts of the justice system, today’s announcement on the SLCC’s 2011-2012 budget shows there appears to be no reluctance to hand millions of pounds back to the very same legal profession the scandal laden law complaints quango is supposedly tasked to regulate.

The figures announced in the SLCC’s budget for 2011-2012 laid before the Scottish Parliament today show a cut in the standard levy applied to all solicitors (and conveyancing and executry practitioners) of £26 to £209 for the year from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. Those in the first three years of practice will pay £105 (also the figure for advocates), and in-house lawyers and those practising outwith Scotland £69. The complaints levy remains unchanged, ranging from no charge where a complaint is resolved at mediation, up to £2,000 for a formal determination upholding a complaint on a third or subsequent occasion, although given the fact the SLCC has only upheld one single complaint since it began ‘regulating’ lawyers in 2008, little in the way of formal determinations have actually been made and certainly not published.

Fergus Ewing Scottish ParliamentFergus Ewing as Minister for Communities & Justice wrote letter praising the SLCC for paying back solicitors a few million, no thought of asking for the £2m to be returned. Given the poor state of public funds throughout the country, one might have thought Scottish Ministers would have pressed for some kind of repayment of taxpayers money from the SLCC yet no such moves were made, and stunningly, the now former Minister for Communities & Justice, Fergus Ewing, wrote a letter to the SLCC’s new Chief Executive, Rosemary Agnew, praising the SLCC for “listening to representations from the Law Society” and handing back millions to the legal profession.

fergus ewing msp response to consultation 2011-2012Fergus Ewing said in his letter of 2 March 2011 : “I am pleased that the SLCC has been able to take account of the representations from the legal profession and plans to keep a tight rein on running costs for 2011/2012, estimated at just under those for the current year. I note this has allowed the top-end annual levy to be reduced by a further 28 and I am sure this will be welcomed by the profession. I am aware that reducing the amount held in reserve, closer to the minimum of three months running costs recommended by your independent auditors, will put pressure on the levy rates for future years. To reduce this risk, I expect the SLCC to continue to look for further efficiency savings, and I am pleased to note that you are exploring options including the provision of shared services with other public bodies. Jill Clark and her sponsorship team in Legal System Division remain available to help in any way they can with this process. Officials hope to continue dialogue with you towards the end of the year when you are considering setting the rate for the levy 2012/2013.”

Rosemary AgnewSLCC’s new Chief executive Rosemary Agnew replaced remarkably short tenured former CEO Eileen Masterman. Speaking for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, Chief executive Rosemary Agnew announced a whopping one million pounds would be handed back to the legal profession although she avoided any mention or concern for the repayment of millions of pounds of public funds squandered on the SLCC. Ms Agnew said: “The general levy for 2011-12 has been set below the amount required to recover our full expenditure costs, which means £1m will be released from our reserves leaving sufficient funds to cover 3.5 months’ running costs. This means the general levy will be cut by £26; however, I must emphasise that this level is unlikely to be sustainable in future years. Importantly, although expenditure is budgeted to remain the same, the SLCC aims to deliver a wider range of functions, particularly in relation to the development of our oversight role.”

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations said the SLCC would do better to meet its public expectation of cleaning up the legal profession instead of gifting back most of the money it has accrued to solicitors.

He said : “While I’m sure the Law Society will be very happy to hear the SLCC are reducing levies once again, the fact is that consumers of legal services in Scotland are in just as precarious a position with regard to the regulation of solicitors as they were before the SLCC was created. Perhaps instead of handing out annual gifts to solicitors, the SLCC and its board should concentrate more on its duties mandated in legislation, among them the monitoring of claims against the Master Policy.”

The Law Society of Scotland today said it was happy the SLCC had ‘listened’ to the society’s ‘representations’ over the levy charges, due to solicitors allegedly experiencing a “tough economic situation”.

Philip YellandLaw Society of Scotland’s Philip Yelland, in charge of regulation of crooked Scottish lawyers for over 20 years. Commenting on the reduction in levy fee by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, Philip Yelland, director of regulation at the Law Society of Scotland, said in a press release : “We are glad that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has listened to our representations about the level of fee solicitors will pay in the coming budgetary year. Many solicitors are still making difficult business decisions as there is still a careful balancing act for many solicitors during this ongoing tough economic situation. The £26 decrease in levy fee, which practicing solicitors pay to fund the Commission, is to be welcomed and the Society will continue to represent the profession’s interests to the Commission as it carries out its functions.”

Clearly the Law Society representations and the bias of Scottish Ministers won the day to keep the legal profession happy, although the £1 million would have been better returned to public funds, where the money is really needed.

BACKGROUND of Law Society’s Regulation Chief.

Philip Yelland letter to David Reid ordering him not to take client instructionsPhilip Yelland ordered solicitors not to take their clients instructions in cases in Scotland’s Court of Session against crooked & negligent lawyers. Mr Philip Yelland was formerly the head of the Law Society’s “Client Relations Office”, holding the position since 1990 and has been involved or in charge of regulation of “crooked lawyers” in Scotland for over twenty years in a period which coincidentally saw huge numbers of complaints against the legal profession which in one year alone topped 5000 complaints against Scottish solicitors. Mr Yelland was also identified in private correspondence sent to solicitors demanding they refuse to represent or take instructions from clients involved in Court of Session cases against some of Scotland’s worst rogue lawyers, among them the well known crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling solicitors, Kelso, in the Scottish Borders.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland blacklisted clients from legal representation & legal aid. Unsurprisingly, many solicitors who face complaints handed by Mr Yelland’s office ended up receiving little more than a slap on the wrist while ruined clients were barred from court, blacklisted from obtaining legal representation, were privately investigated and were subject to “information gathering exercises” by senior Law Society officials revealed in 2006 at Holyrood’s Justice 2 Committee’s investigation of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Bill. It was also revealed most clients who ended up victims of the legal profession had received little or no compensation for millions of pounds of plundered client assets.

Mr Yelland’s name was also allegedly linked to the suicide of an Oban client in a report on the Law Society of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt Master Policy Insurance scheme compiled by Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville of the Manchester University of Law School in 2009. Papers studied by the University team yet not released to the public alleged a man from Oban had been sent to a Glasgow law firm to represent him in a court case against a crooked law firm yet the Glasgow law firm did nothing for a period of three years and after it was revealed the same firm also represented the Legal Defence Union, the shady organisation which represents crooked lawyers against complaints, the Oban client committed suicide.

The final report from the University of Manchester Law School on the Master Policy can be viewed or downloaded here : Report on the Master Policy by University of Manchester Law School, Dr Angela Melville & Professor Frank Stephen.

My coverage of the report’s release & conclusions is here : ‘Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers & here : Suicides, illness, broken families and ruined clients reveal true cost of Law Society’s Master Policy which ‘allows solicitors to sleep at night’

The Law Society of Scotland & others linked to the Oban case have never commented on their role in events which some allege drove the unnamed client to suicide and readers may recall from recent news the Legal Defence Union played a significant part in negotiating a secret deal with the Scottish Legal Aid Board to secure no action against solicitor Niels S Lockhart for alleged legal aid irregularities.

All this trouble, expense, political interference from Scottish Ministers, clients intimidated & suicides just so lawyers can sleep soundly at night, as the report on the Master Policy from Dr Melville & Professor Stephen so accurately stated.

 

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